I have been sending out query letters like a crazy person lately. Let me tell you, writing a novel is hard, but nothing compared to cramming a year of your life into a four-paragraph sales pitch. Nicole Wilson was a lifeline for me. She reviews the most important query letter tips.
In the process of getting Deception ready for agents, I’ve done quite a bit of research on query letters. As there’s no sense in keeping all this information floating around my head to myself, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way. (I’m leaving out some of the standard ones like include word count and genre because I’ve mentioned them in my annotated query example below):
- DO customize your query for each agent. Put their name at the top (make sure it’s spelled correctly), and always include something that indicates you at least read their website (maybe a recent book they’ve represented, another author, etc.).
- DO read their website for submission guidelines. Every agent has different guidelines. While this may seem like a hassle, they’re looking to see who is professional enough to research. They’re looking for business partners (as writing is a business). And they get an average of 100 query letters A DAY, so they need something to thin the pile.
- DON’T expect feedback from them. Their job is not to provide you feedback. It’s to tell you if they are able to sell the book or not.
- (This is my own personal advice) DON’T include words like “and then this happens” or “and another character enters” while telling your story. You want to engross your agent in your query letter. Make them feel like they’re reading a book and want to read more after they’ve finished your letter. Don’t remind them they’re at work, sifting through email. We all know how lame that feeling can be.
- DON’T use a query blaster or CC/BCC a bunch of agents on the same email. This tacks onto my first “do.” You must customize for each agent. Also, several of them have said that nothing gets a query deleted unread faster than that (because they can tell).
- DON’T try to be fancy or gimmicky. Like I said before, they’re looking for professionals, and your query letter is a business letter. This is not the time for pink or scented paper or gifts that represent the book. Send them what they want and nothing more.
Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com.
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